Coming year brings changes for Scouts

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Tiger Scout Corde Leinenbach of Jasper, 7, crossed over the bridge to become a Wolf Scout at the Ireland Cub Scout Pack 130 crossover ceremony at St. Mary's Community Center in Ireland recently.



Girls in Dubois County — and across the nation — will soon be able to form Scout troops and join or create Cub Scout packs through an organization previously open only to boys.

Announced last October, Boy Scouts of America’s new Cub Scout directive has already hit early adopters and will likely take effect in Dubois County come August. Older girls will be able to form troops in the area when the Scouts BSA program launches in February 2019.

“We’re being very methodical,” said John Harding, scout executive for the Buffalo Trace Council. “We’re planning this out.”

The historic decision came after years of requests from families and girls to join the programs. According to information provided by Harding, a recent survey of parents not involved in scouting showed 90 percent of parents are interested in a program like Cub Scouts for their daughters and 87 percent are interested in a program like Boy Scouts for their daughters.

Currently, local Cub Scout programs are open to boys in kindergarten through fifth grade, and Boy Scout troops are open to boys ages 11 to 17. After the changes take effect, Cub Scouts will have single-gender dens — groups of six to eight boys or girls — in those same grade levels. Cub Scout packs — which are divided into those dens — will have the option to remain single-gender or not.

Scouts BSA — the new name for the scouting program for older kids — will feature only single-gender, non-coed troops, but there will be girl troops and boy troops.

Harding pointed out that the Boy Scouts program has already been serving girls and women for years through its Venturing Scout, Explorer Scout and Sea Scouts programs — all of which have been open to boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 20.

“The Buffalo Trace Council has been serving young girls for many years with programs that are outdoor-adventure based,” Harding said.

Ireland Cub Scout Pack 130 Wolf Scouts fell on the ground during a game of tug-of-war at the pack's crossover ceremony at St. Mary's Community Center in Ireland recently.

The national news of the changes has been shared on a local level with volunteers at various events, and this summer the council will work in smaller group settings with organization volunteers to further educate them. Harding said leaders and volunteers across the council are mentally prepared for the new rules and aren’t surprised. Girls who have brothers in the program have been going to meetings and family camping trips for years, and Harding said that in a lot of cases, they already know the scout oath and scout law.

Still, a representative from the Girl Scouts organization — a completely separate entity from the Boy Scouts of America — said the Girl Scout program remains a viable choice and always puts girls front and center and keeps their best interests in mind.

This year, the organization will see the largest rollout of new badges and program content in nearly a decade, with a strong focus on the outdoors and STEM.

“Girl Scouts has been the premier girl leadership development organization and the girl expert for over 100 years,” Aimee Stachura, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana said in an emailed statement. “There is no organization that more thoroughly understands the value of programming designed specifically for girls and delivered in an all-girl learning space. We offer girls the single best leadership experience in the world, in turn helping families that seek to support the development of their girls into strong, confident women.”

In a phone interview, Stachura also questioned why Scouts BSA leadership believes a program designed by men, for boys, will meet the needs of today’s girls.

Harding said the BSA’s programs and values are relevant to all young people. He added that nothing taught in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts is gender-specific.

“I think the elements that have been offered in scouting for over 100 years are still attractive to young people,” he said. “They’re still important. They’re still critical to our success. When you think of leadership development, character, outdoor ethics, citizenship training and practicing of your faith, all rolled up together, it’s critical. It’s what most parents want for their children.”

The Buffalo Trace Council serves more than 5,000 young people in its council programs. In Dubois County, 212 adult volunteers and leaders oversee 640 boys.

Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana serves more than 5,200 girl members in southwest Indiana. In Dubois County, the group offers 42 Girl Scout troop options — with 153 adult volunteers and 80 lifetime members — that work with 477 girls.

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